Trying to Attract the Tourists

Unique tourism campaigns are nothing new. Governing magazine recently highlighted several:

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s exactly what South Dakota did with a new tourism approach a few years ago.

After hearing from focus groups across the country that the Dakotas were nothing more than a “barren wasteland,” the state tourism agency came up with a unique campaign angle: At least we’re not Mars, an actual barren wasteland.

The voiceover in a TV ad says: “Mars. The air: not breathable. The surface: cold and barren. … South Dakota. Progressive. Productive. And abundant in oxygen. Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota?”

Their efforts may have paid off: The state has had a record number of tourists in the past two years. 

Instagram on the Road

Last year, Minnesota decided to tackle the perception that the state is just a cold, snowy place by bringing its attractions to you. Really.

Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state’s tourism committee, created traveling photo booths featuring two of the state’s main attractions: the First Avenue music club, which was featured in the 1984 Prince movie Purple Rain, and scenes of the Minnesota outdoors.

The state set up the booths in cities across the country, ranging from Denver to Chicago to Kansas City, and modeled them after Instagram to encourage people to share their photos on social media.

The Prince booth came complete with a fog machine, purple lighting and a drum kit, while the other booth featured a canoe and a machine that generated morning mist and bird calls.

Come Get an Operation

San Diego doesn’t need to do much to convince people to visit: It has legendary beaches, a world-famous zoo and plenty of sunshine. Even so, the city is now betting it can convince tourists to get that elective surgery they’ve always wanted in between getting a tan or frolicking on the beach.

In 2017, city leaders launched DestinationCare San Diego, a public-private partnership to get more tourists to think of San Diego as a place to get medical care — and recover afterwards. The city hopes to compete with world-renowned medical destinations like the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota or the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

The city does have a strong medical sector. It’s home to the University of California health systems and Rady Children’s Hospital, which is ranked one of the best children’s hospitals in the country.

Time for a New Dining Experience in Evansville

Summer is a great time to try a new restaurant and a new experience. You can do both by attending Evansville’s first Dishcrawl on Tuesday, July 9.

Join other food lovers to sample specialties and meet owners and chefs at four restaurants on Franklin Street. Participating restaurants are a secret. Hints, however, are being given via Twitter @DishcrawlEvansv.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m., ticketholders will meet at the first location (provided 48 hours in advance via email) to start their dining experience. After sampling cuisine at the initial restaurant, they will then travel by foot to enjoy the fare at the three remaining locations.

Dishcrawl started in San Jose, but has grown to host events across the nation in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., and more. Its mission is to show food lovers the best dishes in local restaurants.

There are a limited number of tickets (regular price $45, with Chamber members and blog readers eligible for a 15% discount by using the code chamberfranklin for the Evansville event). Purchase online.  

Questions about the event can be directed to the Evansville Dishcrawl Ambassador Michael Armanno via email at [email protected].

Abe Stands Tall on Tourist Trail

Don’t stop reading just because the word Washington appears in this post. We’re going to talk about fun things in our nation’s capital (and elsewhere), with no mention of current political issues or individuals.

My tourist tip of the year: take a bike ride during a visit to D.C. My family did just that earlier this month as part of an East Coast vacation. In a three-hour, nighttime guided bike ride, we learned more about and had time to reflect at all of the following: Washington Monument; White House; Lincoln Memorial; Jefferson Memorial; World War II, Korea and Vietnam War memorials; and a few other memorable spots. A little exercise and a lot of history in a short time period.

I come back to see a story on top presidential tourism spots in 2009. Abraham Lincoln leads the way, with Indiana contributing through visitors to one of his boyhood homes. Franklin Roosevelt and our first three presidents (Washington, Adams and Jefferson) were also high on the list. And there’s a few surprises.

Some highlights from the article:

According to figures collected by the National Parks Service , nearly 6.8 million people visited sites associated with Lincoln last year, including his memorial on the National Mall, Ford’s Theatre and childhood homes in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

In contrast was John F. Kennedy, who falls at the bottom of the list. His Massachusetts home drew only 16,000 visitors last year, mostly nearby residents and students on field trips. It’s only open part of the year and few people know about it, a National Parks Service rep explained. Many Kennedy enthusiasts pay their respects at the Eternal Flame in Arlington National Cemetery, where he rests, or visit the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, his living memorial.

Those and several other popular spots like Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello are not managed by the NPS or included on this list. Among the lesser known entities:

Who knew that 162,000 people visited Herbert Hoover’s home in Iowa last year? That’s just shy of the entire population of Des Moines, Iowa’s largest city. The popularity of the place may have less to do Hoover’s presidency, which was darkened by the Great Depression, and more to do with modern-day marketing. 

The similarly situated James A. Garfield home in Lawnfield, Ohio, drew far fewer people. Just 17,000 people visited the site recently acquired by the National Parks Service, placing it second to last on the list. Though the Civil War general is a local celebrity in this Cleveland suburb, his national status was limited by the short length of his presidency. Garfield was assassinated six months after taking office.

Special programs, especially those timed to historical events, can make or break a site’s popularity. They even gave Lincoln a boost to the top. Though Lincoln has always been a popular draw — 900,000 people visited his memorial in 1936  — tourists flocked to Lincoln sites last year to celebrate his bicentennial.

The Adams family home in Massachusetts also drew relatively large crowds. Some 250,000 people visited the home of John Adams, who was overshadowed in life and in death by other founding fathers.

The Massachusetts birthplaces of both the second president and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, draws many New Englanders interested in the family’s history. Its location just nine miles from Boston and close to beachside vacation homes doesn’t hurt either.

Tourists are willing to go off the beaten path for one particular president, however. Seniors who lived through Roosevelt’s presidency comprise most of the visitors to his home 90 miles north of New York City.

"For so many in the World War II generation, FDR was their only president," the NPS spokesperson said.

Iceland Hopes to Combat Eruption with Eruption of Tourism

You may recall Iceland’s tourism industry taking quite a beating recently due to the eruption of Mt. Eyjafjallajokull (especially if you happened to be flying to or from Europe at the time, or sprained your tongue trying to pronounce it). Well, the nation is collectively fighting to change its perception as an area devastated by a natural disaster in order to bring tourists back. MediaBistro reveals this intriguing campaign, highlighted by a promotional dance video. (Said video may be NSFW, depending on how your company feels about the bare bottom of a gentleman, which makes its way into the piece… inexplicably.)

Iceland launched what may be the most homogeneous brand advocacy campaign in the modern era last week. All 320,000 citizens were asked to get online for one hour, at the same time, to combat misconceptions about the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. The volcano brought air travel in Europe to a standstill in April.

Inspired by Iceland centers around a catchy music video of "Jungle Drum" by Iceland’s own Emiliana Torrini. It features the stereotypically beautiful, sporty residents (with some nudity) against a backdrop of lava fields, glaciers, geysers and the massive outdoor Blue Lagoon spa.

And it wasn’t just online. Both major phone companies gave away free oversees calls to get citizens talking about the campaign. The very active Facebook page includes links back to a number of live webcams at top tourist sites, and a growing cache of user-generated content with nearly 25,000 fans.

Hopefully the country will recoup some of the 15% decline in tourism, one of its top industries.